Isobel Oktoberfest


Travel Confessions: Busabout Asia tour guide Isobel Needham

Published January 9th, 2015

Self-confessed full-time raconteur, part-time fibber and newly minted Busabout Asia tour guide Isobel Needham subjects herself to a grilling about the new Southeast Asia adventures, hop-on/hop-off trips and island-hopping tours available with Busabout in 2015 to Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar plus the nitty gritty on where to eat, party and stay in Asia.


Isobel at Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.


How many countries have you travelled to?

I think I am up to 32, but as you can imagine, I’m often in countries I’ve visited before. [In 2014] I travelled to 16, but only three new ones.


If you had to choose, which destinations would be in your top three?

Oh, it’s like choosing your favourite child (but who am I kidding, I know I’m my mum's favourite!). Pai in Northern Thailand, a beautiful little village in the mountains on a geothermal fissure - hot pool delight; Vientiane in Laos is another fave, look out across the Mekong to Thailand, awesome people, crazy street food, a bit of hustle and bustle all come together for some pretty good times. And Pamplona in Northern Spain will always hold a special part of my heart.


Isobel (far left) in Pamplona, Spain for the San Fermin festival.


How did you become a tour guide?

I actually went on a tour (with another unnamed company - awkward!), but it wasn’t very good! And I thought, "Hey, I could do that!". Six months later I was guiding people around the Adriatic and haven’t looked back.


How did you end up working for Busabout?

I applied for a couple of companies, but what won me over in the end was the people. Busabout just feels like it’s a company of real people who travel. If you search #busaboutcrew over on Instagram, you’ll see that the Busabout peeps end up all over the place doing all sorts of crazy things - even when they aren’t working, they are travelling.


Isobel outside the Louvre in Paris.


What attracted you to the travel industry (besides the obvious!)?

Meeting new people, and watching them fall in love with a place, or a moment, or a flavour of gelato! Travel really is an industry where you never know what’s going to happen next, and I love that aspect of it.


What can travellers expect from the new Asia itineraries at Busabout?

Such cool stuff - our team has been working so hard to get everything together in Busabout's freestyle way. There are some great places no other tour companies visit, awesome Busabout guides, gorgeous sunrises, incredible nights out, oh and the food!


Which tour/s do you lead?

After five years with Busabout, there’s quite a few on the list (how good are Busabout festivals?), but the Thai & Laos Adventure and the Thai Island Flexi-Hoppers are mainly where I’ll be focusing on in the next wee while.


Isobel (on left) with friend living la vida YOLO.


Best part of your job?

Getting to see new places, sharing in people's life-changing moments, leading epic missions – and that unknown aspect when everything feels like it’s about to go wrong and then all of a sudden you bump into Brad Pitt in the street (true story!). The fact that no two days are ever the same.


And the worst part?

Umm… paperwork? I’m sure that’s the worst part of a lot of people's jobs. But seriously, there really is no ‘worst part’ to this job.


Halong Bay in Vietnam.


What's the number one question you get asked as a guide?

You get asked a lot if it gets boring going to the same places all of the time – and the answer is: hell no! It doesn’t matter if I’ve been to a place a million times; it’s the first time that my peeps have been there and I want to make sure they benefit from all of the times I have been there! And I want to make sure they have the best possible time.



What's your favourite food spot in Asia?

There are so many fab food destinations in Asia. There’s nothing quite like enjoying a larb gai (Lao minced chicken salad)  and sipping a Beerlao overlooking the Mekong in Luang Prabang or the tea leaf salad in Yangon, Myanmar (Burma). Or a Vietnamese coffee from a street-side stall in Ho Chi Minh City. This seriously is foodie heaven!


I never get sick of... 

Sunshine and mad-as rap skills.


If it's Tuesday, I must be...

On a ferry on my way to Koh Phangan with my party pants on. Or chilling out in Chiang Mai having a delicious ice coffee.



Cassandra Laffey

Consumed with unrequited wanderlust, I get my fix in 24/7 cities and hippie retreats. I'm still looking for the ultimate combo of secluded beach and major metropolis, and my happy place is a 5-star hotel room all to myself - sigh.